Tuesday, April 9, 2013

4.9.13 Bee-otch of the Day: Northern Star Broadcasting

Bee-otch of the Day honors are awarded Monday through Thursday, Bee-otch of the Week is awarded Friday on Chuck69.com.


Name: Northern Star Broadcasting
Age: 15
Occupation: owner of several radio stations
Last Seen: Traverse City, MI
Bee-otched For: fucking over rock fans in northern Michigan

If you love rock and live in northern Michigan, all I can say is that my deepest sympathies are with you.

Two weeks ago, sweeping changes started to occur at Real Rock 105/95-5 (WGFM 105.1 Cheboygan and WJZJ 95.5 Glen Arbor/Traverse City) when the popular Free Beer and Hot Wings show suddenly disappeared. According to station staff, a satellite issue occurred and it would have taken days to fix. Then again, the station had been planning to cancel the show as-is, claiming low ratings and revenue. Listeners took to the station's Facebook page and complained while staffers Cartman and Smitty basically said the same things.

Well, April Fool's Day came, and the joke was on the listeners. Real Rock 105 and 95-5 was blown up, but the rock format was retained on 105.1 and renamed simply Rock 105. In FB&HW's place was Cartman while his midday slot was replaced with Tim Logan, who also does afternoons on sister classic rock station The Bear. Smitty retains his afternoon show while he now handles middays on The Bear.
So far, response to the changes has been mixed. The good news is that Rock 105 is the only rock station in northern Michigan that doesn't dwell on overplayed rock from the 1970's and has a decent selection of rock from the 1990's onward. The bad news? Lots of 'em.

For one, 95.5 is no longer simulcasting with 105.1. Instead, they're now WQEZ Easy 95.5/97.7, playing soft adult contemporary titles from artists like Celene Dion, Michael Buble, Whitney Houston and Elton John. This ends 15 years of 95.5 playing some sort of rock or alternative format; bear in mind that prior to their 1998 flip to The Zone, 95.5 was part of the Coast FM family of stations playing smooth jazz. From a financial standpoint, business was good, but when Del Reynolds sold his stations to Calibre Communications and later Northern Star, the station switched to The Zone based on their mediocre ratings.

WQEZ simulcasts with what is now WJZJ 97.7 in Cheboygan.

The Zone was originally on 95.5, WLJZ 94.5 Mackinaw City (now WOEZ and simulcasting The Bear) and WAVC 93.9 Mio, which eventually became a simulcaster to Big Country 102.9 and then The Bear. Both 93.9 and 94.5 dropped The Zone due to poor ratings, leaving 95.5 on their own. After 11 years, The Zone was dropped in 2009 and Real Rock 105/95-5 was born.

In the beginning, Real Rock did quite well, but thanks to mediocre programming decisions and management decisions, ratings did fizzle, although they were at a combined standpoint, Northern Star's best-performing format with a 3.8 Arbitron rating last quarter. Big Country had a 3.0 while The Bear had a combined 2.3.

However, during the holidays, Real Rock started playing more 70's rock from bands such as Styx, Boston and Journey. Thankfully, those bands were gone a few months later. However, currents were missing from the station's playlist, creating more speculation that Real Rock was toast.

April Fools Day came, and the switches were made. 95.5 went AC and 105.1 went 90's and above rock. Sadly, however, 1) Rock 105 is still not playing currents and 2) the station is playing a lot of crap that most rock stations have long avoided, like the Dave Matthews Band and Counting Crows. What's next? Hootie?

Even worse, 105.1's signal in Traverse City is pitiful. It starts to fizzle out once you get south of Elk Rapids or so. Even worser, Rival station WKLT has a combined 150,000 watts comparing to Rock 105's 50,000. Personally, I think KLT is laughing at NSB's decision to drop Rock 105 to only one signal, and listeners from Traverse City southward are fuming big-time.

Thankfully, Traverse City rock fans still have WOUF 99.3 The Wolf, but to say that station could be an alternative to Rock 105 is an oxymoron in itself. The station has virtually no promotion, their website and Facebook page is nearly non-existent and their webstream has been down for over a year. If I were Roy Henderson, I would give that station some much-needed promotion so at least those disenfranchised by Real Rock's departure could have a station all their own.

But, sadly, that's how radio is. They get rid of something good in exchange for crap. Instead of a current-based rock format, you get a station that hasn't played anything new in months. Instead of a popular morning show with ratings, you get a fat bastard who belongs on a top 40 station and not one that plays rock.

But, here's the $64 Million Question: will Rock 105 last?

Remember, NSB is trying to sell itself back to Del Reynolds. In order to do so, they're trying to spin off 94.5 and 93.9 to the teabaggers that own WYPV 106.3 in Onaway for 106.3. The sale of 94.5 has been approved, but not 93.9, and that station is now silent for the time being.

Only time will tell what will happen, but one thing's for sure: thank God I have Sirius.

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